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Internet Addresses and Other Confusing Stuff, Part I

October 4, 2005

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Over the last ten years or more I've been teaching people how to use the Internet more productively. During my classes and tutoring sessions one of the most common errors people make is to confuse an email address with a web site address.

This article addresses email and web site addresses and a few other things.

Let's start with the easy one first. The email address.

All email addresses include the "@" sign which is usually spoken as the 'at-sign' or 'at symbol' or, simply, 'at'. Read more about @ at this Wiki location: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/At_sign

Let's use my email address as an example. Sayers@aicommand.com Using spoken English my email address is "Sayers at aicommand dot com"  << This won't work on-line. Why not?

Everything on the left side of the @ sign is called the local-part. Everything to the right is called the domain-part. Usually, but not always, the word or characters to the left of the @ are the user's account name on the service they pay for monthly. The domain-part is usually the Internet Service Provider from whom the user gets internet access. Other more familiar examples of domains are: AOL.com, PeoplePC.com and EarthLink.net.

In my case, I own the domain aicommand.com so my email address is 'at' my domain.

The local-part is the person's email name. Examples: JoeBlow@aol.com, Alice.Smith@MSN.com, or TwinkleToes@NewYorkBallet.com

NOTE: All of these examples are so you get the idea. They may or may not work as real addresses.

The Web Site Address

A website address is an address which will cause the web browser to display the information from the web site associated with the address and the location of the document requested.  A web site address can be entered into a web browser in a few different ways:  by typing it in; by using the COPY and PASTE command;  by clicking on the blue, underlined link in a web page or email message.

Website addresses are more complicated than email addresses because the website address can include separated areas--called directories or folders--on the computer where the domain is located which are indicated by the presence of the "/" character as a separator within the address.

The name of a web site address is technically referred to as a Uniform Resource Locator and is abbreviated as URL. Read more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uniform_Resource_Identifier

Explained in the simplest of terms, a URL is the domain where a digital document is located plus all of the information necessary to unambiguously locate the desired document plus the file type of the document.

I'll use one of the most popular articles from my website as an example.

A few years ago, I wrote and article about the untimely parachute-related death of Philadelphia weatherman and TV personality Jim O'Brien. The article is here: http://aicommand.com/Obrien121704.htm

Now, let's dissect the URL for understanding.

The "http://" portion tells a computer to use a type of programming language known as a protocol,  in this case "HyperText Transfer Protocol", to access the Internet.

The next portion, "aicommand.com" is the domain at which the document can be found.

How your computer uses a domain name and a URL to do all of what I'm describing is food for another article. Don't worry about it: It's complicated! If you want to know, send an email asking and I'll write it up and post to my site.

The last portion, "/Obrien121704" is the name of the document. "Obrien121704" is the name I created which includes the month, day and year simply because that's what I wanted to call it.

I could have called it "anything", "JimsDeath", or "HowJimObrienDied". The naming was totally my choice.

The "/" is a separator to divide the domain from other portions of the URL.

The very last portion, ".htm" which indicates the "programming language" or document type. In this case, I wrote the article using a language called Hyper Text Markup Language. There are dozens of possible file types to describe the document portion of the URL.

URL Examples

Here are a few more URLs as examples:

Weather for Newport, NJ: http://weather.yahoo.com/forecast/USNJ0358.html

Here's a final one to an article on the U. S. Government's White House web site dealing with the president's recent supreme court appointment:

 http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/10/20051004-1.html

Taking particular notice of the "/" separator, you can parse, or break down,  the URL into:

Protocol used: http://  The computer will use Hyper Text Transfer Protocol to move the document you want from its source, as designated in the URL; and into your computer and displayed by your browser.

Domain address portion: www.whitehouse.gov  << Clicking here takes you to the White House home page.

Sub-directories within the domain: /news/releases/2005/10/20051004-1.html which isn't difficult to decipher.

The White House has a section of their website called "news"; and within that a section called "releases"; and within that a year, "2005"; a month, "10"; and "20051004-1" which is the actual document name.

The "html" portion is the language or document type. There are dozens of possible file types to describe the document portion of the URL.

Bottom line:

An email address MUST have @ or it is not an email address.

A website address will NEVER have @ in it.


Author's Comment: If you found this article interesting, informative or confusing please let me know. I need help learning about the 'depth' of explanation my readers want in the articles that I write.

You can reach me using my Email address. Can you find it and send mail to me? Give it a try.



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